Akhenaton, king, or Pharoh, of Egypt from 1375 – 1358 B.C., initiated worship of the sun god, Aton. He revised the Egyptian religion by instituting a form of monotheism, so he’s sometimes referred to as ‘the first Unitarian.’
Nearly 400 of us gathered on the lawn outside the church on Homecoming Sunday, coming as close to ‘worshiping the sun’ as a modern Unitarian could! In addition to focusing on the sun as the ‘Eternal Source of Life,’ Akhenaton ushered in a period of artistic freedom. We welcomed the sunshine, and we reminded ourselves that freedom is central to our heritage – we assume the responsible to protect and preserve our freedoms, which our forebears ‘won.’
After distributing a growing list of symbols of our spiritual home – sacred literature from the world’s religions, our Constitution and By-laws, Membership Book, etc – we processed into the sanctuary with an overflow congregation sitting in the foyer. Our opening hymn was Rank by Rank Again We Stand, which concludes: “Guard we well the crown they won; what they dreamed be ours to do, hope their hopes, and seal them true.”
We were relieved to have another sunny Sunday for our Homecoming – this was my 25th and there was only one rainy opening. The remnants of tropical storm Hanna threatened. Whew!
We’ve inherited the ‘crown they won.’ We use our freedom to create the kind of caring, compassionate community they had in mind in 1949 when they gathered in one another’s living rooms in Bridgeport, Fairfield and Westport, forming a religious fellowship that evolved into The First Unitarian Church in Fairfield County, which name was changed in 1961 following the merger of the Unitarians and Universalists – the Stamford Universalist Society was formed in 1841, so we were no longer able to claim ‘first.’
Homecoming service, for me, is like a renewal of vows. It’s a wonderful, inspiring day; I’m reminded of the work I came here to do – to serve those who were here, to encourage some who had moved to the periphery of the circle or stepped out altogether to come back, and to welcome those in search of a spiritually nourishing community to join.
At our Homecoming Service we hold up the names of members who have died since the beginning – a growing list, of course. During my 24 years there have been 140 members added to our necrology; I officiated at memorial services for nearly all of them, in addition to hundreds of others who were friends or relatives. This year we read together names from the past decade, and invited anyone who wished to hold up others. It’s very moving.
My Homecoming sermon, What They Dreamed Be Ours To Do, has been added to the website collection. Dozens of those sermons can be listened to as well as read – we have a wonderful, always-growing website.
Their dream – to create a spiritual community characterized by religious freedom and tolerance, and a genuine sense of caring and compassion for one another, and a sincere desire to contribute to the betterment of our world – is ‘ours to do.’ I hope your summer went well, providing some opportunities for rest, relaxation and re-creation and I look forward to seeing you again, soon.